Thousands of 'golden visas' have been granted to foreign investors

Revealed: Tens of thousands of ‘golden visas’ have been granted to wealthy foreign investors – including 3,966 to Chinese and 2,477 to Russians – since ‘backdoor’ scheme was launched 12 years ago

  • Fears ‘golden visa’ scheme can be exploited due to lack of  background checks
  • Labour MP says it is a ‘backdoor way in to the UK for dodgy Russian money’
  • Financial crime expert says ‘UK appears to easily welcome money from anybody’

Tens of thousands of so-called ‘golden visas’ have been granted to wealthy foreign investors, including more than 6,000 to Chinese and Russians, since the ‘backdoor’ scheme was launched 12 years ago.

Those eligible for the government’s tier one investor visa, which launched in 2008, must have at least £2million in investment funds and a UK bank account. 

With that the can work or study in the UK for up to five years, while also being eligible to apply to settle in the country after making further investments.

there are concerns that the ‘golden visa’ scheme can be exploited, because not enough background checks are made on applicants. 

The figures come just days after the  intelligence and security committee (ISC) published its long-delayed Russia report which warned the UK is at risk of being exploited by Moscow because of the cosy relationship with its oligarchs.  

The report read: ‘In brief, Russian influence in the UK is ‘the new normal’, and there are a lot of Russians with very close links to Putin who are well integrated into the UK business and social scene, and accepted because of their wealth. This level of integration – in ‘Londongrad’ in particular – means any measures now being taken by the Government are not preventative but rather constitute damage limitation.’

Former Labour minister Chris Bryant has accused the government of ‘giving out golden visas to dodgy Russian oligarchs,’ adding the system can be used as a ‘backdoor loophole’ to funnel dirty money into the UK.

Former Labour minister Chris Bryant said the system offers a ‘backdoor loophole’ to funnel dirty money into the UK

Today it was revealed 14 Conservative ministers, including six in the Cabinet, have accepted tens of thousands of pounds in donations from Russian oligarchs. All of the donations are legal under electoral rules and have been properly declared.

But there are concerns that the ‘golden visa’ scheme can be exploited, because not enough background checks are made on applicants. 

Between July 2008 and March 2020 there were 12,175 tier one investor visas granted, according to analysis of Home Office figures.

Of these, 3,966 were granted to Chinese applicants and 2,477 handed to Russians.

From January 2019 to March 2020 the Government granted 1,035 of the visas, of which 436 were handed to Chinese or Russian applicants.

Mr Bryant, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, said he was ‘genuinely shocked’ by the figures as he had expected them to have dropped ‘substantially’ in light of Government commitments to address concerns.

He told PA: ‘You can just buy a house, you don’t actually have to invest.

‘It seems like an extraordinary way to do business.

‘Clearly this loophole was being used for years as a backdoor way in to the UK for dodgy Russian money.

‘There should be a full review of the system and I think that should be published.

The ISC’s long-awaited Russia report read earlier this week: ‘There are a lot of Russians with very close links to (Vladimir) Putin (above) who are well integrated into the UK business and social scene, and accepted because of their wealth

 Anyone with £2million in funds not tied up in securities or shares can apply to be granted entry for a period of up to three years and four months.

Successful applicants can then apply for permanent residence should they invest a certain amount in the UK. 

According to, which provides international assistance to people seeking visas: ‘Those who invest £5,000,000 or more can apply to settle after 3 years, while those who invest £10,000,000 or more may apply after 2 years.

‘Investors on this visa cannot invest in any company whose main business activities involve managing, developing, or investing in property.’

‘It should show how many (golden visas) were granted over the last 10 years which they now think were inappropriate.’

In 2018 a report published by the Foreign Affairs Committee, which at that time included the now Home Secretary Priti Patel as a member, accused ministers of risking national security by ‘turning a blind eye’ to the Russian ‘dirty money’ flowing through the City of London.

Concerns over the practice of issuing golden visas were raised during this inquiry which found that despite the outcry over the Salisbury Novichok nerve agent attack, President Vladimir Putin and his allies were continuing to use the City as a base for their ‘corrupt assets’.

It demanded the Government show stronger political leadership and take action to close loopholes in the regime.

Then foreign secretary Boris Johnson appeared to suggest ‘there was no real role for Government in this process’, according to the report.

Tom Keatinge, of Royal United Services Institute’s Centre for Financial Crime and Security Studies, was among those to raise concerns about investor visas when he gave evidence to the committee two years ago.

He told PA on Thursday: ‘The bottom line is that it remains the case that the UK appears to easily welcome into the country money from anybody.

‘The investor visas act as a cloak of approval in facilitating that money.

‘There clearly needs to be a much more rigorous process.’

Anti-corruption group Global Witness accused the UK of turning away those most in need of asylum but rolling out the red carpet for oligarchs.

Ava Lee, who leads the group’s threat to democracy campaign, said: ‘Despite a long-promised review of the unknown individuals granted golden visas, when almost no checks were being done on the source of their wealth, we have yet to see any progress at all.’

A Home Office spokeswoman said: ‘The Government will not tolerate any foreign interference in the running of our sovereign State and has taken action at every level to defend the UK, including from illicit finance.

‘We reformed the tier one visa route to better protect the country from illegally-obtained money in 2015 and 2019 and have not ruled out making further changes in the national interest.

‘We are also reviewing all tier one investor visas granted before these reforms were made and will report on our findings in due course.’

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